Mariah Hori Te Pa
Ko Ngāti Rārua, Muaūpoko me Ngāti Raukawa ōku iwi. Mariah’s whānau whakapapa to NRAIT through NRAIT original owner Hakopa and his daughter Tumatahuna. From Te Tau Ihu, Tumata’s daughter Rakapa moved to Horowhenua, which is where Mariah’s whānau have been based and is how they whakapapa to the local iwi. She was born and raised in Levin, with Muaūpoko and Ngāti Raukawa whānau on her father’s side. Mariah is also Samoan from her maternal nana who emigrated here in the 1960s.
Mariah is in her sixth and final year at Victoria University, studying Law, Māori and Anthropology and will be graduating in May next year. She is very motivated to finish her conjoint degree because of the support of her whānau back home. Mariah is passionate about serving the community and helping some of the most vulnerable people in our society, which she has been doing through volunteering while at university, and intends to keep doing when she leaves. The contribution that she is the most proud of from her time at university, and considers the most rewarding, has been her involvement with the Wellington Community Justice Project (WCJP) over the last four years. The WCJP is a charitable law student-led organisation based at Victoria Law School and this year Mariah has been Student Director. The icing on the cake was being awarded a Gold Award and a joint Sovereign Award recognising her leadership efforts, at the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) Club Awards.
For those beginning university, Mariah’s advice is to always look after yourself, first and foremost. This means being kind to your body, including physically exercising and nourishment, and this also means looking after your mental health. “The best grades in the world or the fullest CV won’t compensate for an unhappy or unhealthy mind! Having a positive physical and mental health is the best way to set out smashing your goals”.
“I have had a fantastic six years at university and there is nothing that I would change if I were to do it again. My time here has been characterised by variety: by trying new things, meeting new people and saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities and experiences. I have been a class representative, student mentor for junior Māori and Pasifika law students, and a disability services class note-taker for people in my class who can’t take their own notes. I have been a secretary for the Māori Law Students’ and the Pasifika Law Students’ Societies, and Vice-President of the VUW Feminist Law Society. All of these have been a result of simply being curious, being motivated, and putting my hand up. I love the crazy journey I have taken and feel as if I am a better and well-rounded person for all of these experiences and more. If I had any more advice it would be to say yes to the opportunities that come your way – even if they scare you!
Mariah’s journey and identity as a Māori person has significantly influenced the activities she’s been involved in, what she chose to research, and who she spends her time and energy with. She recognises that she is extremely privileged to have gone through higher education, especially as Māori people are significantly underrepresented at university level, and she has been motivated to use her position of privilege to help those less fortunate, particularly Māori and rangatahi Māori.
As Mariah’s time at university comes to an end she is excited about the future. She is currently applying for jobs that would utilise her law degree, such as in Wellington law firms or in government. Mariah’s career goals would ultimately be to return to university to complete her Master’s degree and perhaps become an academic. Whatever she chooses to do before then and afterwards, she knows she will continue to help the most vulnerable in our community, as she has been doing while at university.
I was honoured to be chosen as the student guest speaker at the annual Law Leavers’ Dinner a couple weekends ago. There, I shared my favourite whakataukī as my parting message: “Whāia te iti kahurangi; ki te tūoho koe, me he maunga teitei - Go out and seek the treasure you value most dear; should you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain”. For me this means setting out and doing whatever your heart desires, and letting nothing humble your ambitions and dreams. I have let this whakataukī guide and inspire me throughout my journey at university.
Mariah, thank you for sharing your story with us. You are an amazing wāhine and we wish you all the best for your future.